Wednesday, 24 August 2016

I want it now!

Pardon the post title - I couldn't resist it.

You can tell Veruca Salt were considered a success when they were allowed to make videos like this for their second album. Volcano Girls is a terrific song and even rivals Seether to these ears. Shutterbug mentions Bristol, and Louise sings "telly" to mean TV. When did any American last do that?

I'm going to be in all sorts of trouble from a certain young lady for writing this, but surely I can't be the only one who found Louise Post to be exceedingly cute? All the same, they were never quite the same after Nina Gordon quit the band. Thank goodness the original lineup is back together. So here's one from last year's brilliant reunion album 'Ghost Notes'.


Saturday, 20 August 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#12: These Boots Were Made For Walking by The Boys Next Door

After last week's post, I'm winding it back 35 years - THIRTY-FIVE YEARS! - to Nick Cave's very first record. Things started even earlier than that. Cave and a bunch of his mates - who included Mick Harvey and Phill Calvert - formed a band at their school in Melbourne in 1973, playing songs by Bowie, Roxy Music, Lou Reed and the like. They continued after school with Cave, Harvey and Calvert being joined by bassist Tracy Pew. They turned their attention to the British and American punk scenes and started writing their own songs. The final piece of the jigsaw fitted into place in 1978 with the arrival of second guitarist Roland S. Howard. The shift in sound he brought the band helped fuel pretty much everything they did thereafter. Their first release was this cover of a song made famous by Nancy Sinatra. The song and the video were made before Howard joined, hence why it sounds like nothing that appeared on their debut album the following year. Sure, it'll never be remembered as one of Cave's defining moments, but it's notable for it being the first recorded output by a group of musicians who would later become The Birthday Party, one of the most controversial - and influential - bands of the 80s. And don't you think Nick looks more like Gary Numan here than Gary Numan did in 1978?

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Welsh Wednesday 100

Look Horizon by John Cale

So this is it. The century has been reached, and (for the time being at least) so has the end of Welsh Wednesdays. I think it's run its course but it's been a lot of fun and I may well revive it at some point as I still have quite a few tunes I want to feature, as well as what will inevitably be lots of new stuff. 

It's interesting when you do a long-running series such as this. I've found that some things I think will go down really well garner very little interest at all, while some other unlikely posts end up being quite popular. I just cannot predict you lot!

Anyway, to round things off in fitting style (for now), we return to one of Wales' most legendary and innovative artists. Someone (Dirk, maybe) recommended John Cale's 2003 album 'Hobo Sapien' some time back. It was his first album in seven years and was a major critical success. It's not an easy record to listen to in places, but then that's exactly what you expect from Cale. It has a heavily electronic sound, contrasting dark, ominous moments with bright, poppy twists.

There's a hidden track in the pregap, a re-recorded version of Set Me Free which originally featured on Cale's previous record 'Walking On Locusts'. It's a wonderful track, and I was tempted to post that one, but instead I went for Look Horizon. Very Bowie-esque, I think, though I'm hesitant to compare Cale with anyone as he's more likely to have influenced than to have been influenced. Let's not forget, Bowie made no secret of his love of the Velvet Underground. Even so, I can't help thinking Look Horizon might have fit on a number of Bowie's albums, including the last two. In case you're wondering, the female voice on this is Cale's 18-year-old daughter Eden.


A new Wednesday series starts in September, taking us beyond Welsh borders. Until we return, diolch am wrando.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#11: Higgs Boson Blues

When Nick spoke of the Bad Seeds' 15th album 'Push The Sky Away' prior to its release, he described it as an album of ballads. However, it wasn't, he claimed, another 'Boatman's Call'. How right he was. 'Push The Sky Away' turned out to be one of the best records of his entire career. I'd even put it in my top 3. These songs were certainly not ballads in the conventional sense, but they were far from the loud feedback-swathed racket that graced 'Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!' and the Grinderman records. Two songs in particular stand out as among his best ever work. One of them will feature later in this series, but the other - today's pick - is simply astonishing. This version of Higgs Boson Blues is longer than the album version and sounds live, although I think that may just be Nick's vocal. To this day, his lyrics about Miley Cyrus crease me up, particularly: 

  "Hannah Montana does the African Savannah
  As the simulated rainy season begins
  She curses the queue at the Zulus
(zoo loos???)
  And moves on to Amazonia
  And cries with the dolphins."

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Welsh Wednesday #99

Sega Segur by Ffa Coffi Pawb

Ffa Coffi Pawb (trans: Coffee Beans for Everybody) formed in 1986 and boasted an unchanged line-up until their dissolution in 1992. They were one of Wales' favourite indie bands but, because they performed in the Welsh language, were barely noticed beyond the confines of their homeland. Of course, Peel played them, and there were even one or two appearances on obscure TV shows in England, but other than that, very little in the way of recognition.

So how come you may have heard of them? Well, two of their members went on to form bands that became much more well-known. Drummer Dafydd Ieuan became a founder member of Catatonia with ex-members of Y Cyrff and an unknown singer by the name of Cerys Matthews. He later quit to team up with his brother Cian Ciaran and former Ffa Coffi Pawb bandmate Gruff Rhys to form Super Furry Animals.

Sega Segur was a single from Ffa Coffi Pawb's third and final album 'Hei Vidal!' from 1992. Listening to it, you can totally hear how Gruff and Daf may well have influenced the sound of their later band. It would be three years before SFA would release their first recordings, but you could have sneaked Sega Segur onto either of those first two EPs and you probably wouldn't have noticed it was a different band!

The other two members of Ffa Coffi Pawb didn't leave the biz after the band split. Rhodri Puw joined Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and Dewi Emlyn became tour manager for both SFA and Gorky's.


Very excited to hear the news that Super Furry Animals are touring in December, playing both the first two albums in their entirety. The final date is in Cardiff. Guess who'll be in the thick of it....!?!?

Saturday, 6 August 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#10: Henry Lee

Another fave from 'Murder Ballads', and like Stagger Lee from a few weeks back, this one also has its roots in traditional folk music. This one, however, hails from Scotland. The tale is told here. Nick roped in Polly Harvey to sing the female character. The pair hit it off in such a big way, they had a rather passionate, if short-lived, love affair. Fortunately, there was no bad blood between them when they broke up, unlike poor Henry Lee and his vengeful spurned lover. The chemistry between Nick and Polly is evident in this marvellous video - a single four-minute shot that portrays more messages than a thousand words could ever hope to. Come on - it's Nick Cave and PJ Harvey. Could there ever be a more perfect combination?

A trailer for the new Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album and Concert Movie event has just been released. In it, Nick talks of something "so catastrophic" happening to a person, it changes them forever. He is, of course, alluding to the tragic death of his teenage son Arthur last year. Intense and moving.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Welsh Wednesday #98

Molly Drove Me Away by The People The Poet

You may remember a couple months ago I featured a band from Pontypridd called Climbing Trees. Well, also from Ponty is The People The Poet. They're a four-piece who came up with a novel way of writing their first album. They had friends and fans send them true stories of events in their lives, and these stories were used to base the songs on. The album was released late 2013 and entitled 'The Narrator'. It's a damn fine listen. 

The band also run a charity called Music Is My Medicine, after a saying used by an early fan and supporter of the band who was diagnosed with breast cancer. They wrote a song Pink Ribbon for her and set up the charity with a view to raising money for Cancer Research UK. It was through this that the idea for the album was born - to have people suggest ideas for music to help others through certain times in their lives. Molly Drove Me Away is a song from that debut album.

A new 6-track EP 'Paradise Closed' came out in the Spring and that's well worth investigating too. Some cracking tracks on there, the video for one of them is lined up for a post in the autumn. Why wait? It'll make sense when I post it, believe me. For the trivia buffs among you: The People The Poet's guitarist is Tyla Campbell, son of none other than Motorhead's Phil Campbell. Tyla's brother Todd produced the album. Pretty talented family, then.


Saturday, 30 July 2016

The Genius Of Nick Cave

#9: Worm Tamer

Some find Grinderman's sound disarming. Others might describe it as disturbing, while yet others may just find it downright disgusting. Personally, I think they were one of the best things to happen to Nick and his cohorts. If it weren't for Grinderman, we probably wouldn't have had 'Dig! Lazarus, Dig!!!' by the Bad Seeds. Worm Tamer, from Grinderman's second and final album, is seriously intense. Soundwise, it's pure scuzzy filth, all distortion and feedback mixed with murky sludge. Live, it proved tough to replicate according to Nick, but this version from 'Later... With Jools Holland' in 2011 is pretty damn close. It's clear no instrument is safe in the hands of Warren Ellis, and if you think his beard is something to behold, check out his shoes at 2:26! Ferocious and phenomenal.

My traditional summer wind-down starts next week. Fewer posts throughout August, though this series, and the culmination of Welsh Wednesday, will continue.

Friday, 29 July 2016

50 albums to take to my grave #40: Let Me Come Over

Decisions, decisions... you may remember as an addendum to my '50 Songs...' series that I replaced three songs. This was because I had three songs that appeared on albums I really wanted to include in this series. I'd made a rule - albums could not be featured if I had one of its songs on that list. I was torn - should I just leave it as it is and forget the albums? Of course not. These albums are just too good to leave behind. Replacing the songs was easy. But then I faced another dilemma...

There are some acts who I rate as great singles bands. While some of their albums are great too, generally a 'Best Of' compilation pretty much contains everything you really need. I therefore decided to conclude the series with a few 'Best Of' compilations. One of them was Buffalo Tom's 'Asides From', quite simply one of the most best CDs I own. But at the last minute, I had a change of heart.

Buffalo Tom's third album 'Let Me Come Over' was on my original list of albums right from the very start. I realised the mistake I made early on when I featured Velvet Roof as the very first of my '50 songs to take to my grave'. It is one of my all time fave tracks and has been since I bought the 12" way back in 1992. But when I bought the album, that became one of my all time fave albums very quickly. And doesn't it have one of the best front sleeves ever?

Velvet Roof is arguably the 90s' best-single-that-nobody-knows, a rollicking romp of skittish guitars and harmonica solos. Stymied is probably the most inappropriately-named track on the album; it comes bursting out of the traps and hurtles along at a frightening pace - nowt's stopping it. And as for Larry - well if any lead singer has ever written a better song about his cat than this one, I've yet to hear it.

The thing I love about Buffalo Tom more than other bands is their ability to make me adore their slower songs too. Taillights Fade set a standard that was almost matched on subsequent albums (I'm Allowed from 'Big Red Letter Day'; Wiser from 'Smitten'; You'll Never Catch Him from 'Three Easy Pieces'). Mineral and I'm Not There are also right up there with the best tracks in the band's catalogue, the latter seeing vocal duties taken by bassist Chris Colbourn. While his voice may well suit such songs, I've always been a big fan of Bill Janovitz. If I could sing, I'd love to have Bill's voice.

I love BT's sound, those crunching guitars and Tom Maginnis' solid snare breaking through on every beat. Only Sugar could match them when it came to the top power-trios of the 90s. (Uh-oh, I hear the Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr. fans lining up to vent their spleens at that statement. I stand by it.)

When weighing up whether I'd take 'Asides From' or 'Let Me Come Over', I wondered if I'd ever be able to choose between them. In the end, 'Let Me Come Over' won on the grounds that there really isn't a duff track on it. Every song is at least a 4 out of 5 (most are 4½ or over, and there's even a couple of 5s). You'd expect that from a 'Best Of', but not necessarily a standard album. Sure, I'd miss songs like I'm Allowed, Rachael, Tangerine and their excellent stripped-down version of Going Underground, but heck, I do have Velvet Roof, Taillights Fade, Mineral, Larry, Stymied, Darl, Porchlight, I'm Not There..... I think you get the point.



Taillights Fade video:

Even though it's been replaced in the final list, you can still read my original piece on Velvet Roof in the first '50 songs' post back here.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Welsh Wednesday #97

Can't Kick Up The Roots by Neck Deep

I'm not a big fan of the kind of American pop-punk that comes out of places like LA. It's all about skateboarding and life being shit when you just know those kids were raised in affluent, upper-middle class neighbourhoods with their own swimming pools and never having to worry about whether mummy and daddy could afford the mortgage.

Neck Deep make that sort of music, but being from Wrexham they obviously have a different take on things. The sound is there, but instead of declaring their hometown to be rubbish, in Can't Kick Up The Roots they seem to be celebrating where they come from. Let's get this straight - Wrexham is no LA. I've never actually been there, to be honest, but I'm pretty sure you'll find it's just not so sunny or cheerful or rich or glamorous or showbizzy as the City of Angels. You'll probably see that from the video.

In 2014, Neck Deep released their debut album and won the Kerrang! Award for Best British Newcomer. The following year, their second LP 'Life's Not Out To Get You', from which Can't Kick Up The Roots is taken, came out to much acclaim. As I said, it's not really the sort of thing I normally go for, but there's something rather infectious about this track that I can't shake off.

As a sidenote: TheMadster saw Neck Deep in Cardiff last year, spending the evening in the mosh pit. She returned home bruised, dripping with sweat and grinning from ear to ear. "That's my girl," I thought to myself. I was so proud.